Preview: West Virginia - Syracuse

After letting a chance to move up in the rankings squirt through their hands last week, the Mountaineers travel to Syracuse looking for their sixth consecutive victory against the Orange. Game Scorecard
Series: SU 30-24
Sat 10/6/07 Noon
Syracuse, NY.

Carrier Dome
Record: 4-1
USA/Coaches: 12th
Last Game
USF L 13-20

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Record: 1-4
USA/Coaches: NR
Last Game
Miami (OH) L 14-17
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2007 Schedule
First Meeting: 1945
Last Meeting: 2006
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WVU - Nate Sowers (Hamstring) Probable, Archie Sims (Hamstring) Out, Alric Arnett (Leg) Out, Patrick White (Leg) Probable

Syracuse - None reported

Game Outlook:

WVU offense vs. Syracuse defense

The struggling Orange defense is lead by former quarterback Joe Fields (6-1, 210). Fields, the starting free safety, tops the team with 42 tackles and has also picked off three passes. The All-American candidate is sixth in the Big East with 8.4 tackles per game.

Joining Fields in the secondary is Nick Chestnut (5-11, 184), A.J Brown (6-0, 201) and Dowayne Davis (6-0, 200). The trio has combined for 77 stops with Brown recording two interceptions.

In the trenches, the Orange has struggled to stop the run, ranking 111th in rushing defense, but that hasn't kept the front four from posting solid numbers. In the middle, Arthur Jones (6-4, 289) and Tony Jenkins (6-3, 286) have combined for 40 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks.
Game Info
WVU 4-1, 0-1
SU 1-4, 1-0
Sat 10/6/07 Noon
Carrier Dome
Series: SU leads 30-24-0
TV: ESPN Regional
AP: WVU-13th: SU-NR
Line: WVU -25
Putting pressure on the WVU quarterbacks from the edge will be Brandon Gilbeaux (6-3, 271) and Jameel McClain (6-1, 256). Gilbeaux has tallied 20 tackles while McClain has been active as well, posting 33 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery.

Leading the Orange linebacking corps is Jake Flaherty (6-1, 228). The junior ranks second on the team with 36 stops. Flaherty is joined on either side by Vincenzo Giruzzi (6-3, 232) and Ben Maljovec (6-3, 223). The duo has combined for 56 stops through the first five games.

By the numbers :
WVU is ranked ninth in total offense (507.40 yds/game), third in rushing offense (323.20 yds/game) and 95th in passing offense (184.20 yds/game).

SU is ranked 111th in total defense (484.80 yds/game), 111th in rushing defense (231.40 yds/game) and 87th in passing defense (253.40 yds/game).

Advantage: WVU

WVU defense vs. Syracuse offense

The 2007 version of the Syracuse offense is lead by sophomore signal caller Andrew Robinson (6-3, 222). Despite the lack of a productive running game, Robinson has posted solid numbers with 1145 yards and seven touchdowns against only one interception. He has completed 55.7% of his passes (78-140), while going downfield often.

Joining Robinson in the backfield will be tailback Curtis Brinkley (5-9, 203) and fullback Tony Fiammetta (6-1, 235). Brinkley gets the bulk of the carries but has yet to crack the century mark in yards in any one game, and is only averaging 2.6 yards per carry (36.6 yards per game). The junior has been more productive in the passing game, hauling in nine passes for 149 yards.

Fiammetta is not a threat in the running game as he only has one carry this season. His assingment is blocking, but his success, as well as that of the Syracuse line, has been limited.

The most explosive player on offense for Syracuse is 2007 All-America Candidate Taj Smith (6-1, 188). Through the first five games the junior has snagged 19 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns.

Opposite of Smith will be sophomore wideout Mike Williams (6-2, 204). The sophomore has 16 receptions for 260 yards and three touchdowns.

One reason for the Orange's woes is the sub-par performance of the offensive line. While only producing 40.6 rushing yards per game, the unit also ranks next to last in pass protection in the nation, giving up 22 sacks this season. Only Notre Dame is worse with 29 sacks allowed.

The line is lead by 2007 All-American and Outland Trophy Candidate Ryan Durand (6-5, 310). While Durand has plenty of experience and will surely play on Sundays, three of Durand's linemates had a combined eight starts coming into this season. Carroll Madison (6-2, 310) was the only other player with experience, having started 27 games, and the lack of cohesiveness has showed up front.

By the numbers :
WVU is ranked 11th in total defense (273.40 yds/game), 24th in rushing defense (97.40 yds/game) and 18th in passing defense (176.00 yds/game).

SU is ranked 113th in total offense (272.60 yds/game), 118th in rushing offense (40.60 yds/game) and 57th in passing offense (232.00 yds/game).

Advantage: WVU

WVU special teams vs. Syracuse special teams

Handling the special team for the Orange will be Morgantown native, Patrick Shadle (5-8, 201). The junior has connected of 5-8 field goals and 9-10 extra points this season, and has been one of the few bright spots for the Orange this year. Of his three missed attempts, two were blocked.
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Handling the punting duties will be true freshman Rob Long (6-4, 175). Long has averaged 42.8 yards per punt, while 16 of his 31 attempts have been inside the 20 yard-line or fair caught.

Returning kickoffs will be true freshman Max Suter (5-11, 190). Suter, one of the stars on the 2007 Syracuse team, is averaging 27.9 yards per return. Included in that average is a 93-yard touchdown against Louisville.

The Maytag repairman for the Orange has been punt returner Bruce Williams (6-0, 200), with only three returns over five games. The junior has totaled 26 yards in limited action.

By the numbers :
WVU is ranked 97th in net punting (32.07 yds/punt), 79th in kick returns (20.67 yds/return) and 44th in punt returns (11.25 yds/return).

SU is ranked 85th in net punting (33.26 yds/punt), 15th in kick returns (26.04 yds/return) and 72nd in punt returns (8.67 yds/return)

Advantage: WVU

Picks to Click:

On Offense: Steve Slaton

On Defense: Antonio Lewis


How does Syracuse lose to Washington, Iowa, Illinois and the other Miami by the combined score of 135-46, then whip Louisville at Papa John's stadium? Big plays. Of the Orange's six scoring plays against the Cardinals, four of them were 40 yards or more, including touchdown receptions of 79, 42 and 60 yards plus a 93-yard kickoff return. This seems to be a favorable matchup for the Mountaineers, as the 3-3-5 stack defense tends to shut down the big plays and force teams to drive the length of the field in small chunks.

The WVU offense will get back on track this weekend and the defense will continue its stellar play.

WVU - 41 Fighting Pylons - 10

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